E-mental health strategy for Australia

Foreword

Page last updated: June 2012

Australia is recognised by many as a leader in treating and caring for people with mental illness, and the Gillard Government has committed to an ambitious package of mental health reforms to further build that reputation. This has included a record $2.2 billion investment in mental health services, support and care, and a renewed commitment to improvement, transparency and quality in their delivery.

This reform agenda gives us an opportunity and presents us with a challenge: to remain alert and alive to innovative ways to further improve our mental health system. Online mental health services offer such an approach – both as an alternative, and as an adjunct, to face-to-face mental health care. We know that such services can be both popular and effective, especially in the treatment of high prevalence, mild to moderate disorders such as anxiety and depression.

The Australian Government already funds a number of online mental health and telephone crisis support services, and we know that these work well. The power and reach of this Government's National Broadband Network will increasingly bring faster online speeds and a greater range of services, which will in turn support new online treatment options for a growing online audience.

Building on these investments, we are now planning for the next phase of growth with an e-Mental Health Strategy that sets out our vision for the future, and a path to get there.

This Strategy builds on work we have already done to bring services together, and will help to embed e-mental health into the broader primary mental health care system. Over time, we want to see e-mental health entrenched in practitioners' thinking as an appropriate form of treatment. This Strategy will support the development of a mature e-mental health care system, offering high quality services to consumers and carers.

Our touchstones for our e-mental health investments are threefold: access, quality, and integration.

Access to services will be improved by ensuring that people who need help can find services when they need them, regardless of where they live. This includes both existing funded services such as Lifeline and eheadspace, as well as the Government's new Virtual Clinic, which will provide free, real time online or phone counselling with trained counsellors. It is anticipated that the Virtual Clinic will be operational later in 2012.

Quality will be improved by investing in services with a proven track record of delivering clinically appropriate care. Our new e-Mental Health Portal – mindhealthconnect – will provide a gateway for consumers and carers to improve access to quality services and information that they can trust.

Integration of services will be improved by offering complementary treatment and support both on- and offline. Over time, as the Personally Controlled Electronic Health (eHealth) Record system rolls out, it will help to further enhance the integration of care for people with mental illness and assist to empower consumers through improved access to information about their care.

In order to achieve these goals, we must also continue to promote e-mental health services amongst consumers, carers and families, and to the broader health workforce. Alongside mindhealthconnect, we will also establish a new e-mental health support service to work with health professionals in building strong referral pathways between online and offline services.

This Strategy represents the beginning of a new chapter in Australia's e-mental health system. Building on our strengths, it will help Australia develop accessible, high quality, innovative and effective online and telephone services for people experiencing mental health problems. Simply put, our aim is to deliver appropriate and high quality care seamlessly and conveniently throughout Australia.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing
Minister for Social Inclusion
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Mental Health Reform
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